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March 13, 2013
Censer for the burning of incense, Roekelseskar Photo by Nina Aldin Thune (

Censer for the burning of incense, Roekelseskar Photo by Nina Aldin Thune (“Nina-no”), (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported – Distribution Creative Commons,, Farmasihistorie)

Spikenard is a flowering plant grown in China, India, and Nepal. The plant was known in ancient times, distilled into oil, and shipped as a luxury item to Rome, Egypt, and the Near East.

Spikenard was one of the eleven spices comprising incense for the First and Second Jewish Temples. Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, coals from the altar were taken into the Holy of Holies, along with two handfuls of incense. There the incense was used to make smoke before the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, the place where God dwelt.

Six days before the last Passover of His life, Jesus had supper at the home of His friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (whom Jesus had raised from the dead). Mary lovingly anointed Jesus’ feet with spikenard.

Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (John 12: 3).

Four days later another woman, whose name we are not given, anointed Jesus’ head with spikenard.

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head” (Mark 14: 3).

Neither woman could have known that crucifixion awaited Him. But the Lord characterized their acts of devotion as preparation for His burial. Perhaps the faintest trace of the fragrant perfume lingered as He hung on the cross where He gave His life for our atonement.

We have no spikenard to offer Him. But we do have something else.

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5: 2).

Let us take our lead from these two women. Let us pour ourselves out unsparingly for Him, whatever the cost. That our fragrance, too, may be sweet to the Lord.

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From → Christian, Faith, Religion

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